With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around him, Conrad Bittner filled his days with the people and experiences he loved. He was an intelligent and hardworking man whose wisdom was unmatched. Conrad was also a devoted family man who was intentional in the time he spent with his family, and they were his greatest source of pride and joy. Kind, polite, and even-keeled, he faced whatever came his way with a strength that was truly inspiring. Life will never be the same without Conrad here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
It was great to be an American during the decade that we commonly recall as the Roaring Twenties. Jazz music was hot, ballroom dancing was among the latest crazes, and Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb made baseball America’s favorite pastime. Amidst this exciting time was the year 1922 when Rev. Julius Emmanuel Frederick and Maria Anna Fredericka Eliza Ninker Bittner were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Conrad Paul on June 4, 1922. Born in the small village of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, he was the third of four children in his family, joining his older brothers, Eldor and Victor, and his younger sister, Althea, in the family home. Located in the middle of a dairy farm area, Fall Creek was a village of only 572 people. Conrad’s father was a Lutheran minister while his mother was a homemaker.
In many ways, Conrad was a young boy of his generation. While growing up he enjoyed fishing, hunting, and jumping off the railroad bridge. Conrad attended the Fall Creek public schools for all 12 years, and while in high school he played the cornet in the school marching band. He was also a guard on the school’s basketball team, and since the school was so small all the boys were required to play in order to have a team. These boys certainly had heart, however, since as only a team of eight they went on to win a state title in 1936 having defeated much larger teams in the process. To earn some money, Conrad also worked on an area farm during the summers. From there, he went on to the Eau Claire Teachers College, which is now the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.
On December 7, 1941, WWII landed on our doorstep with the vicious attack on our naval base in Pearl Harbor. In 1942, Conrad enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and at his first posting he was a bugler. After basic training in Missouri, he was sent to the University of Iowa where he took regular college courses. Conrad was trained to service airplane radios at Trueax Airfield in Madison, Wisconsin, and he later went on to teach airplane radio care. It was while he was preparing for an oversees assignment that the war came to an end. He was discharged soon after.
With his military duties fulfilled, Conrad fulfilled a life long dream of attending the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he majored in business. He truly enjoyed his time at UW and remained true to his school and followed the football and basketball teams, for the rest of his life. After finishing school, Conrad took a position at GAB (General Adjustment Bureau), working in the office at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. This placement enabled him to go to Madison on weekends.
While there, Conrad met his first wife, Mary Maier, on a blind date. They continued dating, and although their families were a bit hesitant about this relationship since Conrad was a Lutheran boy while Mary was a Catholic girl, their love for each other overcame the differences. With a desire to establish a life together, the sweethearts were married on August 12, 1950. The newlyweds rented a house in Oshkosh, and it was while there that they began their family with the births of their daughter, Victoria, and their son, C. Paul. In 1953, Conrad was transferred to GAB’s Royal Oak Michigan office. Early on they lived in Ferndale, but after a short time they bought a home in Huntington Woods, Michigan. They then completed their family with the births of Christine, Cynthia, and Barbara. Over the years, Conrad advanced to become the office manager in the Royal Oak office. Conrad’s love for helping children led him to volunteer with the Michigan Association for Children With Learning Disabilities, serving as president for a time.
It was easy to see that Conrad’s greatest source of pride and joy was found in his family. He was a devoted husband and loving, patient, and easy going father. Conrad also had a great sense of humor, often cracking jokes or acting silly with his kids. He also loved having fun with his kids, often taking them to high school football and basketball games when they were young. With a lifelong love for sports that stemmed from his youth as well as his love for “his UW Badgers,” Conrad enjoyed sharing this passion with his children. He was also a music buff, especially when it came to jazz, opera, and folk from Pete Seager. He also shared his love for music with his children. On one occasion, he took his daughters, Barbara and Cindy, to see Duke Ellington. A talented singer and dancer, Conrad regularly sang his daughters to bed with selections of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” which was usually followed by “Good Night Ladies.” Conrad loved cooking, especially for his family. He usually went to the early church service on Sunday so that he could have breakfast ready for his family when they arrived home from Mass. Not surprisingly, Conrad was very precise when he cooked!
In 1987, Conrad retired from GAB. Soon after, he and Mary moved to Sarasota, Florida, where they remained for nine years. There, they enjoyed going to Disney World, Conrad sang in the church choir, and he loved keeping a garden that always had plenty of green beans since they were Mary’s favorite. Sadly, he was deeply saddened with Mary’s death in 1996.
Brighter days were on the horizon for Conrad when he met his second wife, Billie, when delivering a piece of mail from the University of Wisconsin that was addressed to her deceased husband and accidentally delivered to him. About 18 months after Mary’s death, Conrad and Billie were married. They spent 15 years together before Billie’s death in September of 2012.
Just one month later, Conrad moved to Milwaukee to be closer to his beloved Badgers and his family – in that order! He kept himself busy, attending holiday dinners, grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s birthday events, and taking part in various activities in his assisted-living facility.
With only a kind word to say about everyone, Conrad Bittner was a blessing to everyone he met. He could find the silver lining along any black cloud, and he was always so sweet, too. Conrad will never be forgotten.
Conrad P. Bittner died on January 9, 2016. Conrad’s family includes his children, Victoria (Thomas Sr.) Pheister, C. Paul Bittner, Christine (Terrance) Fries, Cynthia (Michael) O’Day, and Barbara (Steven) Lipinski; 11 grandchildren; 7 great-grandchildren; and other relatives and friends. Conrad was preceded in death by his wives: Mary Maier Bittner and Billie Bittner (nee Adams). Family and friends will gather at the Funeral Home on Saturday, January 16th from 12:00 noon until the time of the Memorial Service at 2:00 p.m. If desired, memorials in Conrad’s name to Riverwest Food Pantry or the charity of your choice. Arrangements provided by Suminski LifeStory Funeral Homes, Suminski / Weiss, 1901 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee, WI, 53202, (414) 276-5122.